News from the Tennessee Valley News

Ronnie Thomas

Dixie Harrison of Athens with a photo of her late father, radio personality George Rose, aka “Cousin Josh.”
Daily photo illustration by Emily Saunders
Dixie Harrison of Athens with a photo of her late father, radio personality George Rose, aka “Cousin Josh.”

A fitting tribute?
Country singer seeks a street for ‘Cousin Josh’

Ernie Ashworth never met Athens radio personality George Rose. But he listened to him enough to know what a difference Rose made in his life.

Ashworth, 78, born and raised in Huntsville and a former Redstone Arsenal worker, had a smash hit in 1963, “Talk Back Trembling Lips,” which became the Grand Ole Opry star’s signature song.

But it was Rose’s lips, and those of his hillbilly alter ego, “Cousin Josh,” that helped sustain Ashworth’s career and the careers of other country singers. Cousin Josh talked the talk and jockeyed the discs on Athens radio station WKAC.

Death silenced those lips Dec. 16. George Rose was 78.

Ashworth hopes the city of Athens will memorialize Rose in some way.

“I would honestly like to see a street named for him,” Ashworth said from his home in Hartsville, Tenn., about 50 miles northeast of Nashville. “He was an icon, and he did a lot for so many people. I just admire talent, and he had so much talent.”

Dixie Harrison of Athens said she is moved by Ashworth’s remembrances of her father.

“This is still an emotional time for us. We’re just trying to get back on our feet, especially with our brother’s death,” she said.

George Beverly Rose died at his Athens home Jan. 21 at age 48.

“But we all appreciate so very much Ernie’s remembering our dad in such a special way. We’re humbled and touched,” Harrison said. “I’m familiar with Ernie’s songs, especially ‘Talk Back Trembling Lips.’ It was still going strong when I was working in live entertainment shows at Opryland during the summers in the 1970s. I had a good time, trying to sing.”

Father promoted Ashworth

And all that time, Ashworth was going from one hit to another, thanks in part to her dad’s promotions. Songs like “I Love to Dance with Annie” and “The DJ Cried” rolled like a country stream from WKAC and across the country.

In 1989, Ashworth bought a radio station in nearby Ardmore, Tenn., which his daughter now owns. That brought him ever closer to Cousin Josh.

“I listened to him every time I came to the area. He entertained many, many people, and I was just one of his biggest fans,” said Ashworth, who was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1992. “He was a character, especially when he went into Cousin Josh. I fell in love with Josh. He was my idol.”

Mayor supportive

Athens Mayor Dan Williams said he, too, would like to commemorate Rose’s 50-year career.

“I’ve know him all my life,” Williams said. “Every time we talked, it was always humorous. I didn’t get to listen to him a lot, but if I was in the car, I generally listened to him because he played good old country music.”

The mayor concedes that naming a street for Rose would be difficult, unless it’s in a new project.

“Perhaps we could name a portion of Alabama 127 for him, the highway where the radio station is located,” he said. “Certainly, I think we should do something, if it’s naming a street or erecting a marker. I’m not the one to decide, but I’ll be supportive.”

WKAC Program Director Kirk Harvey, who worked with Rose for 30 years, said, “I think it’s a great idea, and maybe we can get the ball rolling in that direction.”

The family is preparing to erect Rose’s tombstone. They are inscribing a verse from Proverbs 17:22: “A merry heart worketh good like a medicine.”

Harrison said there is nothing better to describe her father because “his favorite sound in the world was laughter.”

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Ronnie Thomas Ronnie Thomas
DAILY Staff Writer

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